Will the FBI’s Kavanaugh Probe Be a White House Coverup?

If the FBI investigation is controlled by McGahn and limited to 4 or 5 witnesses, it is a cover-up and a sham

Hagen and Corleone, or Kavanaugh and McGahn? (Photo: The Godfather Wiki)

Hagen and Corleone, or Kavanaugh and McGahn? (Photo: The Godfather Wiki)


If you want to discover the truth instead of cover it up, would you appoint the accused’s lawyer to supervise and control the investigation of the charges against him?

That’s exactly what the Trump White House and Senate Republicans are doing with the one-week FBI investigation. They’ve appointed White House Counsel Don McGahn to oversee the FBI investigation, determine its scope, and  authorize, or refuse to authorize whom the FBI may interview.

McGahn is the Federalist Society insider and White House counsel who steered Trump to pick Kavanaugh from the list of Far-Right Supreme Court candidates the Society put on his desk. He has since been in charge of shepherding Kavanaugh’s nomination through the Senate, advising the candidate in Judicial Committee hearings. He has spent days behind doors in the White House, coaching Kavanaugh on what and how to testify.

McGahn’s role included supervising  hours of so-called  “murder board” sessions in which a mock hearing room was constructed in the White House where McGahn, former Fox News Co-President and Roger Ailes defender Bill Shine, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Orrin Hatch and Federalist Society leader acted the roles of Judiciary Committee members and coached Kavanaugh on his testimony.

If you remember Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather movies, this is a bit like putting Corleone family consigliere Tom Hagen in charge of an FBI investigation of the Don.

McGahn and GOP Want to Bar FBI From Key Interviews

According to news reports on NBCCNN, and in the New York Times, McGahn is consulting closely with Republicans and keeping Democrats in the dark about limits on the scope of the FBI’s investigation, the number and identities of the witnesses whom the FBI will be allowed to interview, and the scope of the questions they’ll be allowed to ask.

So far, the list is limited to the three individuals whom Christine Blasey Ford testified were present at the high school gathering where she asserts Kavanaugh tried to rape her. Mark Judge, the drunken wingman who Dr. Ford says egged him on, has already claimed he has no memory of the incident. P.J. Smyth, who was downstairs, has also stated he does not recall the event. While Dr. Ford’s friend Leland Keyser first stated through her attorney that she doesn’t recall the gathering, she has since clarified that she believes Dr. Ford’s account.

The final witness on the approved list is Deborah Ramirez, who claims a drunken Kavanaugh exposed his penis to her and forced it into her face during a Freshman party at Yale.

Notably, witnesses whom McGahn and his allies won’t allow the FBI to interview include former classmates who have contradicted Kavanaugh’s testimony with eyewitness accounts about his youthful drinking, partying,  and sexually aggressive behavior towards young women.

The witnesses the FBI may be banned from interviewing include Julie Swetnick, who submitted a sworn affidavit that Kavanaugh regularly drank excessively and participated in sexual misconduct in high school, including lines outside a bedroom door where multiple boys waited to have sex with a drunken and possibly drugged girl inside.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said an investigation of Swetnick’s claims and the question of whether Kavanaugh misled Senators during the hearings are off-limits to the FBI.

But more witnesses are coming forward to confirm Kavanaugh was a problem drinker in high school and college, and often became aggressive, including sexually, when drunk. In his Senate testimony, Kavanaugh mentioned beer over 30 times, a beverage he apparently has a great fondness for and doesn’t know how much is too much, according to this testimony.

If the FBI is allowed to question witnesses who swear under oath that Kavanaugh regularly drank heavily and then behaved aggressively, it lends strong credibility to Dr. Ford’s story of a drunken, teenaged Brett Kavanaugh accompanied by a laughing and drunk Mark Judge, pushed her into a room, pinned her to a bed, tried to remove her clothes, and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream for help.

This incident was seared for life into the brain of a traumatized Dr. Ford. But it’s plausible that that it has been forgotten or dismissed by the heavily drunk Kavanaugh and Judge as just another high school ‘bro prank, with little consequence at the time on their lives or inebriated consciousness.

The Cover-Up

If the FBI investigation is controlled by McGahn and limited to 4 or 5 witnesses, it is a cover-up and a sham.

Apparently, McGahn has had some conversation with Senators Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, and Lisa Murkowski abut the scope of the FBI investigation. The question is whether this sham investigation will satisfy at least two of these Senators, and give them political cover they will need to vote to confirm, or whether they will demand a full and thorough FBI investigation instead of a cover-up.

And  it may be up to the people – like Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, the two courageous women who confronted Jeff Flake in an elevator on Friday – to convince these wavering Senators that permitting a sham investigation and confirmation will guarantee their infamy in history.

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(Submitted by Bob of Occupy)

Blockchain’s Quiet Revolution

Most of us will never use the technology, but we’ll still feel its effects

By  (Medium.com)

In 1970, a scientist at IBM Research named Edgar F. Codd revealed a remarkable discovery that would truly change the world. Though few realized its significance at the time — including IBM, which neglected to commercialize it — the relational model for managing data would spawn an entire industry.

Today, few have heard of relational databases, but everybody seems to be talking about blockchain. Much like Codd’s idea nearly a half century ago, blockchain represents an opportunity to create a new data infrastructure likely to help power businesses for another half-century.

Contrary to current hype, few of us will ever work with a blockchain or even know it’s there. The real revolution will come not from the technology itself, but from its secondary effects in the form of new business models. To understand these, you must first understand how Codd created the data economy in the first place.

Blockchain represents an opportunity to create a new data infrastructure, which will likely help power business for another half-century.

How relational databases changed the world

Imagine taking a trip back to 1980. Ronald Reagan was just elected president, and Terry Bradshaw led the Pittsburgh Steelers to yet another Super Bowl. Just a year before, Larry Ellison and two friends launched the first commercial product based on Codd’s ideas. Two years later, they would change the company’s name to Oracle.

Now, imagine trying to explain to someone in 1980 what they’d need a relational database for. Back then, few people used computers. Mainframes were primarily used for back office tasks and heavy computational jobs like scientific research. Relational databases were hardly relevant to most people’s day-to-day work.

What made relational databases important? They changed how people manage data. They made data fungible. Classical or “flat file” databases worked very much like Excel spreadsheets. They stored data in inflexible columns and rows. People would need to understand exactly how the database was set up to find the information they needed. Anybody who’s tried to understand someone else’s spreadsheet knows what that’s like.

With relational databases, however, all we’d need to know is the query language. With it, we could extract whatever we needed from any database no matter who set it up. That’s why, today, we can hop on a system like the internet and pull data from just about anywhere we want. Relational databases are what made the information age possible, and most people hardly realized it.

Why blockchain matters

Relational databases were designed for centralized computing. Data was stored in a mainframe, and we’d use a terminal — and later a PC — to get information out. For example, executives use ERP software to pull data from far-flung operations and manage business processes more effectively. Marketers access research databases to understand consumers. Salespeople leverage CRM systems to service their customers.

Today, however, computing is no longer centralized, but radically decentralized. We carry smartphones in our pockets that are more powerful than what would have been considered a supercomputer back when relational databases were invented. We use those devices not only to retrieve information, but also to send it to centralized databases, often without knowing we’re doing it.

That creates an information bottleneck that is often insecure for a number of reasons. First, while most commercial databases are encrypted, data needs to be unencrypted for us to use it, which leads to problems like the one with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Data is also unencrypted at the source, so firms can access our data and store it without us having any control over it.

The most salient aspect of blockchain is that it functions as a distributed database. Unlike relational databases that house data in one location, blockchain distributes data everywhere at once in a secure form. So we can track data wherever it goes, see what it’s used for and who alters it in any way. This will create a radically more transparent information economy.

With blockchain, we can track data wherever it goes, see what it’s used for and who alters it in any way.

What a killer blockchain app will look like

In a recent conversation I had with Bernie Meyerson, IBM’s chief innovation officer, I asked him what he was most excited about. Thinking he would talk about the Watson program or a futuristic research project, I was somewhat surprised that the first thing he mentioned was his company’s joint venture with Maersk to develop a blockchain infrastructure for global trade.

With everything going on at IBM, from artificial intelligence to developing new computing architectures like quantum computing and neuromorphic chips, shipping seemed a bit lowbrow to me. Nevertheless, once I started digging into the numbers I could see what he meant. Blockchain really can have an extraordinary impact on global trade.

Consider the fact that a 2013 study by the World Economic Forum found that reducing back-office friction in international trade could increase GDP by nearly 5 percent and commerce by 15 percent. Global GDP amounts to nearly $80 trillion, which means you’re talking about a $4 trillion potential impact. If even a fraction of that pans out, it’s huge.

The thing is, nobody is going to buy a product and say, “Wow! This is 5 percent cheaper thanks to blockchain!” The truth is that no one will ever see it. Blockchain, much like the relational databases that came before it, is technology infrastructure. It’s basically to global business what paved roads were to cars — an essential enabling technology, but not a “killer app.”

Blockchain is to global business what paved roads were to cars — an essential enabling technology.

Where to find the next big thing

Over the next decade, we’ll see the impact of blockchain unfold, but it will look a lot more like Oracle and the IBM-Maersk joint venture than the next Google or Facebook. If you don’t work with a relational database now, you probably won’t have much to do with blockchain in the future.

Still, that doesn’t make the impact any less real or exciting. Much like the internet distributed computing, blockchain will distribute secure data. That is likely to radically increase transparency and security while reducing costs. “Disintermediation” is a term we can expect to hear a lot of in the future.

For example, Hu-manity.co is a new startup that plans to give patients more control over their health data. Today, when we sign a consent form for our data to be used for research, we essential give it away. However, with blockchain, we will be able to track it, decide for ourselves how we want our data to be used and even be reimbursed for it.

If you want to know how to profit from blockchain, start looking for information bottlenecks, like global shipping or medical data. Eliminating those bottlenecks is how blockchain will truly change the world.

An earlier version of this article first appeared at Inc.com.

Go to the profile of Greg Satell


Greg Satell

Author of Mapping Innovation, Speaker, Innovation Adviser, @HBR and @Inc Contributor, Publisher- www.DigitalTonto.com - Learn more at www.GregSatell.com.

Amazon’s Aggressive Anti-Union Tactics Revealed in Leaked 45-Minute Video

Screenshot: Amazon training video (Amazon)

Amazon, the country’s second-largest employer, has so far remained immune to any attempts by U.S. workers to form a union. With rumblings of employee organization at Whole Foods—which Amazon bought for $13.7 billion last year—a 45-minute union-busting training video produced by the company was sent to Team Leaders of the grocery chain last week, according to sources with knowledge of the store’s activities. Recordings of that video, obtained by Gizmodo, provide valuable insight into the company’s thinking and tactics.

Each of the video’s six sections, which the narrator states are “specifically designed to give you the tools that you need for success when it comes to labor organizing,” take place in an animated simulacrum of a Fulfillment Center. The video’s narrators are clad in the reflective vests typical of the real-world setting. “We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either,” the video states, drawing a distinction that would likely be largely academic to potential organizers. To expound on what non-neutrality might look like, the video adds in plain language (emphasis ours):

We do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers, our shareholders, or most importantly, our associates. Our business model is built upon speed, innovation, and customer obsession—things that are generally not associated with union. When we lose sight of those critical focus areas we jeopardize everyone’s job security: yours, mine, and the associates’.”

Amazon’s anti-union training video comes to light amid an image crisis for the company. Years of reporting on low pay and poor working conditions reached a fever pitch late this summer when Senator Bernie Sanders proposed legislationdirectly challenging the company’s reliance on social subsidy programs. Likewise, Amazon lost more than it gained in a charm offensive ploy that rewarded its warehouse ambassadors for tweeting nice things about the company—like how they are free to use facility restrooms and are not slaves.

Gizmodo has opted to not publish the video itself in order to maintain source anonymity.

Throughout, the video claims Amazon prefers a “direct management” structure where employees can bring grievances to their bosses individually, rather than union representation. However, a number of warehouse workers have expressed to Gizmodo in past reporting that they believed voicing their concerns led to retaliatory scrutiny or firing. “[Amazon] preaches that they have this open-door policy and then when you try to go through that open door, instead of being allowed in, you are now set up,” a former Fulfillment Center worker in Indiana told Gizmodo. “You’re somebody that talks and you’re somebody they’re gonna absolutely make the job as difficult as humanly possible for.” Another Floridian Fulfillment Center worker told Gizmodo he sent complaints of low pay to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s public-facing email address (jeff@amazon.com) and claims management was “harassing me since I sent that email.” He said he was terminated shortly afterward.

We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment regarding its response to employees who raise concerns and will update when we hear back.

T.I.P.S. are the tactics Amazon advises management not to use, according to the video.
Screenshot: Amazon training video (Amazon)

The video provides some background on the National Labor Relations Act—the 1935 law that guaranteed workers the right to organize, take collective action, and strike—and the various protect activities employees can engage in. But the meat of the video begins in section four, entitled “Warning Signs.”

Here are a few of the (extensive) examples “that can indicate associate disengagement, vulnerability to organizing, or early organizing activity,” according to the video:

  • Use of words like “living wage” and “steward”
  • Distribution of petitions and fliers
  • Associates raising concerns on behalf of their coworkers
  • Wearing union t-shirts, hats, or jackets
  • Workers “who normally aren’t connected to each other suddenly hanging out together”
  • Workers showing an “unusual interest in policies, benefits, employee lists, or other company information”
  • Increased negativity in the workplace
  • “[A]ny other associate behavior that is out of character”

The training video then asks managers to listen to 10 hypothetical employees and select whether their remarks constitute a “warning sign” or “innocent interaction.” Workers loitering in the break room after their shift, asking for a list of the site’s roster, or complaining about the absence of a living wage fall into the “warning sign” category.

Screenshot: Amazon training video (Amazon)

In following sections, Amazon teaches managers that, where talking to subordinates about unions is concerned, “almost anything you say is lawful,” even providing some examples of what statements are completely kosher even if they’re clearly meant to inspire fear of organization (emphasis ours):

“You would never threaten to close your building just because associates joined a union. But you might need to talk about how having a union could hurt innovation which could hurt customer obsession which could ultimately threaten the building’s continued existence.

While warning managers that activities like threatening employees cross a line, giving personal opinions that accomplish nearly the same are within their rights. “Opinions can be mild, like, ‘I’d rather work with associates directly,’ or strong: ‘Unions are lying, cheating rats.’ The law protects both!”

Throughout, managers are encouraged to express opinions against unions to their workers, and any of signs of potential organization are supposed to be escalated to human resources and general managers immediately.

Sadly, these kinds of tactics are not unique to Amazon. TargetLowe’s, and Walmart have all faced criticism in recent years for producing training videos intended to quash employee organizing.

“The truth is that [Whole Foods Market] is afraid of organized labor and these trainings speak to that fear,” a current Whole Foods organizer told Gizmodo. “I think the parts in particular where it teaches team leaders how to subtly manipulate conversations with their team members is just really gross. It is representative of the worst parts of WFM culture.”

Amazon declined to comment on the record on the video but told Gizmodo it shares training videos regularly on many topics.

By any indication, Amazon is seriously concerned about the prospect of Whole Foods, or any arm of their business, becoming unionized. Maybe it’s time for workers to consider why their bosses are so worried.

Update 2:30pm: After Amazon declined multiple requests to comment for this story, the company issued the following statement proceeding publication. Amazon asserts that we “cherry-picked soundbites” from the video and that our characterization does not convey Amazon’s “view on how to create career opportunities for employees.” We’ve published the statement in full below and requested that Amazon share the video with us so that readers can watch it for themselves.

“We’re perplexed as to why Gizmodo takes issue with a company wanting to better engage its employees, train hundreds of managers to maintain an open and direct dialogue with associates, and create channels to drive innovation on behalf of the customer in a caring and inclusive environment. The reporter clearly cherry-picked soundbites from the video to meet his editorial objective and do not align with our view on how to create career opportunities for employees.

“In the U.S., the average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers, including cash, stock, and incentive bonuses, is over $15/hour before overtime. That’s in addition to our full benefits package that includes health, vision and dental insurance, retirement, generous parental leave, and skills training for in-demand jobs through our Career Choice program, which has over 16,000 participants. We encourage anyone to come see for themselves by taking a tour at one of our fulfillment centers — learn more at http://amazonfctours.com.”

Have information on Whole Foods, or Amazon in general? Send us a tip via email,Keybase, or anonymously via our Secure Drop server.

Amazon’s Disgusting Anti-Union Video For Company Managers LEAKED

‘Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist’: Sanders Introduces Bill to Break Up Nation’s Largest Wall Street Banks

“We must end, once and for all, the scheme that is nothing more than a free insurance policy for Wall Street: the policy of ‘too big to fail.'”

Activists protest in front of the DC office of Goldman Sachs November 16, 2009 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

With Wall Street banks as big and profitable as ever ten years after their reckless criminality sparked the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would break up Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and other so-called “too big to fail” financial institutions that pose a major systemic risk to the American economy.

“No financial institution should be so large that its failure would cause catastrophic risk to millions of Americans or to our nation’s economic well being.”
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

“No financial institution should be so large that its failure would cause catastrophic risk to millions of Americans or to our nation’s economic well being,” Sanders said in a statement. “We must end, once and for all, the scheme that is nothing more than a free insurance policy for Wall Street: the policy of ‘too big to fail.'”

Titled “The Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act,” Sanders’ legislation would break up any bank that has a total exposure of more than three percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP)—the equivalent to $584.5 billion in today’s dollars.

If passed, Sanders’ bill would break up of America’s six largest financial institutions—JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley—as well as massive non-bank financial corporations like AIG and Prudential.

“These six major financial institutions have over $10 trillion in assets, equivalent to 54 percent of our entire GDP and have a combined total exposure that exceeds 68 percent of our nation’s GDP,” according to a summary of the new legislation released by Sanders’ office.

In a Facebook Live video on Wednesday, Sanders discussed the details of the new legislation with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)—who is planning to introduce a companion bill in the House—and economist Simon Johnson, who joined a large groupof financial experts, consumer advocacy groups, and labor unions in endorsing the Vermont senator’s bill:

“The new Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist proposed legislation from Senator Bernie Sanders is short and to the point,” Johnson said in a statement on Wednesday. “The largest banks and other highly leveraged financial institutions are simply too big—and pose a real danger to our continued economic recovery.  Make them break up into smaller pieces, bringing more competition, better service and lower risks for the American economy.”

“Too big to fail should be too big to exist,” Rep. Sherman concluded. “Never again should a financial institution be able to demand a federal bailout.”

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Breaking with Wall Street: L.A. Puts It to the Voters

Sparking Progressive Fury, Tom Perez Says DNC Would Continue to Back Any Democrat Who Votes for Kavanaugh

“The invisible chokehold of big money vs. people, vs. the testimony of women on gruesome display. Again.”

“What’s the point of electing Dems to swing districts (if that’s the excuse) if they don’t vote with Dems?” asked progressive activist Nomiki Konst. (Photo: Texas Tribune Festival/Screengrab)

Even as he continues to denounce Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as an enormous threat to women and declare that the judge’s sham confirmation process is a “vivid illustration” of why it’s crucial for Democrats to retake the Senate in November, Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez outraged progressives on Friday by suggesting that the DNC would continue to stand behind any Democrat who decides to vote yes on Kavanaugh.

Asked by Wall Street Journal reporter Reid Epstein if the DNC would “continue to work to reelect Democratic senators if they vote” for Kavanaugh, Perez briefly ducked and dodged before finally answering, “Of course we’re going to continue.”

While several red-state Democrats who were previously viewed as possible yes votes for Kavanaugh—such as Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.)—vowed to vote against his confirmation after hearing the compelling testimony of his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) are still undecided.

Watch Perez’s comment, which came during an on-stage interview at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas on Friday:

Perez’s remarks were quickly denounced by progressives as both an egregious political mistake and a betrayal of the millions of women and allies who have been working tirelessly to defeat Kavanaugh, who has been credibly accused of sexual assault.

“Basically that gives them a pass. Not smart. This is why we lose so much ground to the GOP,” James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute, wrote on Twitter. “They’re carnivores and we play too nice. This isn’t just any issue, it’s a defining issue for what kind of country we will be.”

“When you say that it’s fine for Democrats to back [Kavanaugh], you are saying that the rage and anguish and fear that people—especially women—feel about his potential confirmation is meaningless to you!” wrote Splinter‘s Jack Mirkinson. “This is not complicated.”

“At this point,” Mirkinson concluded, “voting against Brett Kavanaugh should be the most basic thing possible for anyone calling themselves a Democrat!”

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